The Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) holds the world’s most extensive collection of French first editions of Chopin; the majority of these were acquired through the dépôt légal. Four other institutions – British Library (London), Narodowy Instytut Fryderyka Chopina (Warsaw), Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna) and Regenstein Library (Chicago) – also possess numerous French editions.

Table 3 reveals that Maurice Schlesinger and his successor Brandus were Chopin’s principal French publishers by far, followed by Troupenas with nine Chopin works on his list. The other publishers in the table handled Chopin’s music on a more ad hoc basis. The fact that multiple editions of Opp. 1–3 are shown has nothing to do with a transfer of rights between publishers; instead, these works entered the public domain in France some years after their original publication in Warsaw or Vienna, as a result of which French reprints could be freely produced. Observance of the usual deposit formalities did not secure protection for Richault’s edition of Op. 3: to remove a work from the public domain, a publisher needed to obtain the author’s express permission to issue a new publication, and Richault’s failure to do this meant that Schlesinger and Schonenberger could themselves publish Op. 3 on an entirely legal basis. Opp. 1 & 2 had a similar fate but for somewhat different reasons: although Schlesinger is likely to have gained Chopin’s approval for a new edition, he neglected to deposit a copy as required, and this oversight was exploited by Schonenberger. The latter also brought out the Rondo Op. 5, which was published first in Warsaw in 1828 and again in Leipzig in 1839; once again, the new French publication was within the law, although Schonenberger was the only publisher in Paris to have any interest in this early work by the composer.

Although both Schlesinger and Brandus sought ownership of the Chopin editions previously released by other French publishers, their aspirations to publish the complete works of the Polish composer were never fully realised. (See Table 4.) Schlesinger auctioned part of his list in November 1842 to mitigate his parlous finances, enabling Lemoine to buy Opp. 10, 18 & 25. Faced with similar difficulties, Brandus was obliged in July 1857 to sell the works of Halevy, four of which Lemoine appears to have purchased along with Chopin’s Op. 12.[1] No unequivocal information is available about the sale of the Mazurka from La France Musicale; however, it is known that in 1847 the Escudier frères had financial problems that led to the sale of part of their list,[2] and possibly the Mazurka changed hands at that time.

[1] See Devriès and Lesure 1988: 277; as it happens, Hérold and Halevy’s Ludovic – on which Chopin’s Op. 12 was based – was not one of the four works. It is odd that Op. 12 remained in Brandus’ catalogue until 1863 even though it was absent from the EO STP released in 1859, a lacuna indicating that the work no longer belonged to Brandus at this time.

[2] See Devriès and Lesure 1988: 163.